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Frustrations continue for Stars in ugly shutout loss to Wild

Still searching for answers on offense, Dallas serves up seven goals entering its midseason bye week

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Stars are a frustrating team right now.

They are among the worst in the league at even-strength scoring, and they have allowed the first goal in 11 of the past 15 games. Now, they have overcome those problems to post at 27-17-4 record (58 points) by coming back from a third-period deficit on eight different occasions. But that history seems to be something even the team doesn't believe is sustainable.

So when you look at Saturday's 7-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild, there is a tendency to worry a little bit. The Stars lost their last two games heading into the midseason break and were clearly outplayed in both games. They scored one goal total, including getting shut out by Alex Stalock on Saturday.

 

[WATCH: All highlights from Stars at Wild]

 

"We've just got to be harder around the net," said Stars captain Jamie Benn. "We're just getting outbattled. I don't think we get enough pucks there, and we have definitely got to get our attempts up at the net."

Joe Pavelski added: "There's more to give. We're not generating enough shots, we're not getting to the inside enough, those second chances aren't there. That's a big part of it. We've got to be a little bit harder in certain areas and keep pucks alive."

Stars interim coach Rick Bowness shuffled up his lines, in part because Radek Faksa missed his third game with an upper-body injury and Mattias Janmark returned to play after missing a game with illness. But Bowness said he also juggled things because the team just didn't look great.

Video: DAL@MIN: Bowness on Stars' struggles in loss to Wild

"We're not scoring a lot of goals 5-on-5, so why not try something different?" Bowness said before the game. "We need to score more than one even-strength goal a game, we don't have last change here, so let's try a different look. There's no harm in that whatsoever."

The lines were fairly original, as he placed rookie Joel Kiviranta on a top line with Tyler Seguin and Benn, broke up Blake Comeau and Andrew Cogliano for the first time in a long time, and tried Pavelski with Comeau and Denis Gurianov.

Basically, it didn't work, as Minnesota controlled the puck and seemed the better organized team.

"It looked like a team that had never played together," Bowness said of the Stars. "We all did something wrong to prepare for this game."

Bowness also made some changes on defense, as Stephen Johns played for the first time in the past two seasons and Miro Heiskanen missed his first game in the past two seasons. Johns has been out with post-traumatic headaches, but has battled to get back into the NHL. He played 18:29 on Saturday, and that's a great sign for the 27-year-old who could be one of the tam's top four defensemen.

But he didn't see it that way.

Video: DAL@MIN: Johns on playing in first game in 22 months

"It was good to get out and play, but losing like that sucks," Johns said. "I was pretty rough with the puck. I felt like I was in quicksand all night. It just tells you the difference in level of play from the minors to the NHL. I knew it was going to be faster, but 22 months off, I'm definitely going to need some time to shake the rust off."

Heiskanen is in concussion protocol after getting cross-checked in the head Thursday against Buffalo. He stayed in Dallas, and the timing of his injury could allow him to miss just one game. The Stars play again on Jan. 29 at home against Tampa Bay, and Heiskanen could be back by then.

So what kind of team will the Stars be at that time?

 

[READ MORE: Stars reassign forward Kiviranta to Texas]

 

Well, they should be well rested. The NHL gives each team a five-day stretch with no games to help refresh the players midseason. They also hold that break adjacent to All-Star Weekend, so Dallas will go eight days without a game. Seguin will play in the All-Star Game in St. Louis, but everyone else will have time to hit the beach or take a vacation.

"It seems like it couldn't fall at a better time," Benn said. "We've got a little while to regroup and rest up and then get back at it."

Because not everybody is off at the same time, the Stars could come back and be fairly close to a spot out of the playoffs. They already have slipped behind Colorado with this two-game losing streak, and could see Winnipeg close the four-point gap between third and fourth place in the Central Division.

Video: DAL@MIN: Benn on Stars' lopsided shutout loss to Wild

If that happens, it will be another challenge in a season filled with hurdles.

"We did this at Christmas. We went to Florida and gave up seven goals and came home and gave up three power-play goals," Bowness said. "Here, we gave up seven and three power-play goals (in the same game). So we said this before: 'We've been here, we should know better.'"

The Stars followed that slump with a six-game winning streak, so they know they have the potential to rebound. They just have to address a lot of issues.

As much as they are frustrating for fans, they also are frustrated themselves.

"As a coaching staff, we obviously have to make sure that doesn't happen again," Bowness said. "And the players have to take a look at themselves and see what they can do better.

"Each guy has to be better than that."

Don't miss your chance to see the Stars take on the Tampa Bay Lightning when they return home to American Airlines Center on Monday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. Get your tickets now!

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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